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Guest Column - Ten lyrics that prove Nick Cave's genius by Tom Hickox

Guest Column - Ten lyrics that prove Nick Cave's genius by Tom Hickox
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Having released debut album War, Peace and Diplomacy, Londoner Tom Hickox has created a guest column/playlist that should serve as a catch all next time anyone want to know who the singer-songwriter’s inspiration are. Short answer: Nick Cave. Long answer: here’s ten of the Bad Seeds’ lyrics that explain why – plus stream a full Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds gig via Q right now.

“Who are your influences?” is pretty much the standard question any emerging artist is asked in any interview, and it’s one I’ve been asked a lot in the last few months. I have many, but the most important ones are the songwriters and artists who make the marriage of melody and lyrics an equal one, the likes of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, PJ Harvey, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and this man, Nick Cave. I saw him at the Hammersmith Apollo last year, a brutally uncompromising show, loud, angry and difficult, but he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. He is such a distinctive and original artist he just pulls people with him, and that is beyond inspiring. His lyrics are insightful, funny and terrifying in equal measure, uncomfortable to read and to listen to, and just brilliantly enlightening. A proper artist. Here are my ten favourite of his lyrics (but I could have picked 10,000). Choosing these was an utterly humbling process.

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Tom Hickox

The Sorrowful Wife

The water is high on the beckoning river/ I made her a promise I could not deliver/ And the cry of the birds sends a terrible shiver through me and my sorrowful wife who is shifting the furniture around

Is there a better or sadder line to describe the hopelessness and futility of everything at the end of a relationship than “my sorrowful wife who is shifting the furniture around”.

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O’Malley’s Bar

I jammed the barrel under her chin and her face looked raw and vicious/ Her head it landed in the sink with all the dirty dishes

Vintage Nick Cave from his Murder Ballads album, utterly bleak, visceral and funny.

Higgs Boson Blues

Hannah Montana does the African Savannah as the simulated rainy season begins/ She curses the queue at the Zulus and moves on to Amazonia and cries with the dolphins/ Mama ate the pygmy, the pygmy ate the monkey, the monkey has a gift that he is sending back to you/ Look here comes the missionary with his smallpox and flu/ He’s saving them savages with his Higgs Boson Blues

A line that simply couldn’t have been written by anyone else. An evisceration of the modern world, of the human condition, of the priorities of the west, of our perceptions and definitions of progress.

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Cannibal’s Hymn

You have a heart and I have a key/ Lie back and let me unlock you/ Those heathens you hang with down by the sea/ All they want to do is defrock you

The beautiful desperation of a young man whose attentions are focused on one who is looking elsewhere and the hatred that causes. I’m sure we can all relate to that.

Easy Money

It’s difficult. It’s very tough/ I said to the man who’d been sleeping rough

This, in contemporary parlance, could be named First World Problems. Such a neat line to sum up our self-obsession and blindness to the problems right in front of us.

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Let The Bells Rings

Take this deafening thunder down/ Take this bread and take this wine/ Your passing is not what we mourn but the world you left behind

Here he shatters one of the last great unsayable taboos, that death might be preferable to life.

Into My Arms

I don’t believe in an interventionist God but I know darling, that you do/ But if I did I would kneel down and ask him not to intervene when it came to you

So beautifully constructed and balanced, poetically perfect, and such a tender expression of love, that the heart will overcome any differences of the head.

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God Is In The House

Moral sneaks in the White House, computer geeks in the school house, drug freaks in the crack house, we don’t have that stuff here/ We have a tiny little Force, but we need them of course for the kittens in the trees and at night we are on our knees as quiet as a mouse for God is in the house

A brutal demolition of the smugness of small towns and small minds.

And no more shall we part

And no more shall we part/ The contracts are drawn up, the ring is locked upon the finger and never again will my letters start sadly, or in the depths of winter

Possibly my favourite ever Nick Cave song, in which the lyrics of ‘forever’ are juxtaposed by the sadness of his delivery and orchestration, and the lines are left sounding desperate, and hollow.

We Call Upon The Author

Rosary clutched in his hand, he died with tubes up his nose, and a cabal of angels with finger cymbals chanted his name in code/ We shook our fists at the punishing rain and we call upon the author to explain

Never afraid to tackle God, in this tune he takes him on full bore, mocking the ceremony of religion, and describing the ugliness of the world, calling upon God, the “author” to explain. Completely and amazingly uncompromising.

For more head to Tomhickoxmusic.com.


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